Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
11/09/18 -- Vol. 37, No. 19, Whole Number 2040

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper,
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper,
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        The Square Dance Conspiracy, Part 2 (comments
                by Mark R. Leeper)
        IF TOMORROW COMES by Nancy Kress (audio book review
                by Joe Karpierz)
        The Metric System (letter of comment by Gary Labowitz)
        Gender Pronouns (letter of comment by Gary Labowitz)
        The Square Dance Conspiracy (letter of comment by Kevin R)
                and Benjamin Franklin's AUTOBIOGRAPHY) (book comments
                by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: The Square Dance Conspiracy, Part 2 (comments by Mark
R. Leeper)

Continuing with last week's discussion of square dancers
infiltrating what was then AT&T Bell Laboratories (from a column
originally published 3 April 1987):

Last week I reported on the growing conspiracy of a square dancing
underground. I have been asked by friends who are square dancers
and who claimed to be ignorant of what was going on that I should
point out that perhaps (perhaps!) not all square dancers are in on
the conspiracy.

Actually I am informed by (not necessarily unimpeachable) sources
that 90% of all square dancers are innocent and probably 60% don't
even know that the conspiracy exists.  That is perhaps the most
tragic part about the square dancing conspiracy.  A Squarie is the
innocent victim of the conspiracy perhaps even more than a non-
Squarie.  I am sure most square dancers have only the best of
intentions, but will they be able to prove that to a Congressional
committee if the question ever comes up?

And you Squaries, have you thought about how the square dance
callers are conditioning you to follow orders?  Ask yourself, why
are you not even allowed to question the authority of the caller.
That should tell you something.  And you should ask yourself who
your caller is taking his/her orders from.  How will you feel when
your caller start giving you...

"Waltz that gal across the floor.  Hide some drugs in your desk
drawer.  Meet in the center with a right hand star.  Toss a grenade
at someone's car.  Promenade that pretty little thing.  Drill some
holes in an airplane wing."

One Squarie told me of her square's personal rebellion against the
caller. Just for fun they did everything the mirror image of what
the caller wanted. This the Squarie thought of as a disobedience of
a sort.  It didn't even occur to her that the mirror image of a man
throwing a Molotov Cocktail is still a man throwing a Molotov
Cocktail.  Scary, huh?

Oh, incidentally, I will say that I have been invited to a square
dancing class to see "how innocent" it all is.  This is a warning
to all readers, if the same offer is made to you DON'T GO!  Yes,
you will be convinced square dancing is innocent with just one
class.  Ask an ex-Squarie--one who has been deprogrammed--about
that first class, how it never ends, how you are fed on a diet like
Coke and cookies and no protein at all and kept dancing until you
are too weak to argue back.  Why do you think there are so many
Squaries around these days?"  [-mrl]


TOPIC: IF TOMORROW COMES by Nancy Kress (copyright 2018 Tor, 2018
Blackstone Audio, 336pp, 10 hours 40 minutes, ASIN: B0756J6F1N,
ASIN: B078NH5N3N, narrated by Marguerite Gavin) (audio book review
by Joe Karpierz)

IF TOMORROW COMES is the second book in the "Yesterday's Kin"
trilogy by Nancy Kress.  As a quick recap, the trilogy is an
expansion of the Nebula-award-winning novella "Yesterday's Kin",
which obviously has given its name to the trilogy.  The premise of
the original story, and the first part of the first book in the
series, TOMORROW'S KIN, is that aliens claiming to be related to
the human species have come to Earth warning of a spore cloud that
is making its way toward Earth that could kill most of the planet's
inhabitants once it passes through the cloud.  The link between the
first and second books is the gift of technology that allows
humanity to build a starship to travel to the planet dubbed
"World", although in this book the name is changed to Kindred.

So, some ten years after that original visit, a small, select group
of diplomats and scientists--along with an elite military guard--
travel to Kindred for a standard exploratory mission with a bit of
political and cultural exchange thrown into the mix.  However, much
to their surprise, a few things throw the plans for the trip into a
tizzy.  First and foremost, the civilization they find on Kindred
is not what they expect.  Rather than an advanced technological and
cultural people, the resident of Kindred are neither, which causes
a lot of problems when the help that is expected in developing more
of the serum to protect the residents of Kindred against the spore
cloud just isn't there.  Second of all, the expedition is shot down
out of space by a Russian starship that followed them.  The fact
that another political entity had access to the plans for the
starship didn't surprise me.  What was interesting was using the
Russians as the villain of choice for this event. It's not clear
whether Kress has the Russians in mind because of everything that
is going on in our current political climate or something else
entirely.  I just found the choice a bit odd.  The third item is
that a side effect of the technology that allows the ship to move
through space slips time forward by twenty-eight years.  While this
was referenced in the novel a few times, I suspect it will play a
large role in the concluding novel, TERRAN TOMORROW, coming out in
November of 2018.

The story told by IF TOMORROW COMES in and of itself is quite
simple.  The people of the expedition must be able to create enough
vaccine to save themselves and the people of Kindred, and do so
amidst a climate of fear and distrust.  Throw in a bunch of
military Rangers and a sharpshooting sniper - who are working at
cross-purposes with each other - and the situation is sticky to say
the least.

However, IF TOMORROW COMES is more complex than that.  Kress of
course uses her knowledge of genetics - a subject present in many
other of her books - as well as the ongoing story of family,
belonging, and conflict to tell an interesting tale.  Several of
the characters are quite compelling as well.  Leo Brodie, the
aforementioned non-Ranger sniper, starts out the story on one side
of the conflict but through his experiences learns that maybe there
is another way.  Austin Rhinehart, who was taken from Earth to
Kindred early in his life, is now an adolescent who is conflicted
as well and is one of the more interesting characters in the story.
Marianne Jenner, the main holdover from the first novel, maintains
her role as both a scientist and a mother, as she encounters her
son Noah who left Earth in the first novel and is now a figure of
authority on Kindred.

I began this review thinking that this book was the typical middle
book of a trilogy, something of a weak link that is there to move
the story along, but is not really giving us too much to go on with
regard to the overall arc of the trilogy.  And I think that last
statement may still be true.  But the novel itself, if taken as a
standalone, is a pretty good one and worth the read.

Marguerite Gavin returns, much to my delight, as the narrator for
this second book in the trilogy.  As I stated in my review of the
first novel, she is a terrific narrator and a joy to listen to.  I
really can't add much to that.

Whether you listen to the audio book or read this in a traditional
fashion, I believe that IF TOMORROW COMES is worth your time. I do
look forward to the concluding volume in the trilogy.  [-jak]


TOPIC: The Metric System (letter of comment by Gary Labowitz)

In response to Lee Beaumont's comments on the metric system in the
11/02/18 issue of the MT VOID, Gary Labowitz writes:

Thank you for taking me seriously.  Sometimes people think I am
kidding all the time.

Look, I'm now 79 and 10/12.  I've spent my life with a "built in"
feel for what 10 feet looks like.  A mile is a distance I "feel"
while driving.  I know what a cup of rice looks like and can
probably pour it out without measuring it.  So when I get a recipe
that says "350 grams of rice" what am I going to do?  I have to use
the internet to make the conversion for me.  (It's about 2 cups, if
I recall correctly.  Since I was making risotto for me and my wife,
I cut it to 1 cup and 4 cups of broth.  It was delicious.)

Frankly, I think converting over to metric would require tagging
everything with metric and English measurements and raising a new
generation of kids that were "internalizing" the new measurements.
If someone says he is 1.75 meters tall, I'm at a loss to picture
that.  I guess it is 5' 9" or about my height (5' 7 3/4").

I'm not bitching about all this.  It's just that just using metric
isn't going to cut it to get people to "feel" the measurements
without having to convert everything in their minds.  It just isn't
practical to just switch over without a long period of people to
"feel" the difference of running a 8K race for charity.  (It's our

Oh, the changes that will have to be made.  That's why "And Day
Now" is such a giggle for me.  Switching over will take 20 - 40
years, with new generations going through the conversion.  Can you
image if somebody said, "Let's change over from English (and it's
the American dialect) to Chinese!"  Why is it that a suspect of a
mass shooting event is an illegal alien, living here for about 7
years, and still can't speak English?  How can a woman, now a
naturalized American citizen, sue a pharmaceutical company for her
bad experience from misuse of a drug because the instructions
weren't printed in Hungarian?  I kid you not, this was an actual
case some years ago.

I don't care what system is in general use.  But it's the English
system of measurement now.  And it will only be metric "Any Day
Now." I'll never see it.  [-gl]


TOPIC: Gender Pronouns (letter of comment by Gary Labowitz)

In response to Lee Beaumont's comments on gender pronouns in the
11/02/18 issue of the MT VOID, Gary Labowitz writes:

Well, the use of "their" for the singular possessive pronoun goes
back a long way; I think it was several hundred years.  The "word
police" of the 18th - 19th centuries were responsible for
"standardizing" our language for us.  Being male chauvinist pigs
they decided the male form should be used when the gender of the
noun was unknown.  That was the common usage in lots of ways.  God
is a "he."  A lone student, unnamed, is a "he."  That's why I
pointed out it was not a determinate of saying the actor was a
"male," i.e. a human being with a penis.  To distinguish we have
actress! Which is itself an abomination.  Women are actors, too.
(Well, they weren't originally, and were deemed baudy women who
would go on the stage, anyway.)

The descriptive dictionaries (almost all are, I think) changed over
to showing a definition of "their" as singular when applied to an
unknown gender noun.  "The student should raise their hand."  Okay!
"The student should raise his hand."  Ambiguous.  "The student
should raise her hand."  Clear and correct if the student is
female.  My take was, "The student should raise 'eir hand."
(pronounced as "air.")

Again, when enough of us are wrong, then we will be right.  That's
the nature of language, anyway.  Ain't it the truth!!  [-gl]

Evelyn adds:

A related issue: The supposedly correct number for "no one" is
singular, but "No one I knew was at the party, and I missed him"
just sounds *wrong*.  [-ecl]


TOPIC: The Square Dance Conspiracy (letter of comment by Kevin R)

In response to Mark's comments on square dancing in the 11/02/18
issue of the MT VOID, Kevin R writes:

Others have come around the Conspiracy, tracing it back to Henry

I was taught square dancing as part of gym class in elementary
school.  I remember the caller was called "Dandy Don Durlacher,"
related, I believe, to this guy, "Ed," mentioned in this NYT
Note the activity across the Hudson in the New York of 1949!

The anti-Jazz, anti-Semitic and anti-black motive to push square
dance may have been historically doomed.  Seems black folks were
involved early:

The "real American" dance form is tap, a collision of Irish hard-
shoe step dancing, clog dancing and African-American forms.

I haven't danced in a square since...1970?  I have resisted
entreaties to get involved in Irish ceili or set dancing.  I've sat
and listened to the music while others danced, when I enjoyed the
band, though.

I *liked* square dancing when I was a 6-8th grader, as it allowed
low-pressure contact with actual girls in a structured setting.  It
beat dodgeball!  I hadn't learned about its sketchy roots, though.
And, though a child of the rock n' roll 60s, I also enjoyed country
and western music, which I ascribe to my identifying it as an off-
shoot, partly, of Irish and Scottish folk music, which we listened
to in my house. I also enjoyed cowboy movies and TV shows featuring
Gene Autry and Roy Rogers.

RnR was mainly jump and rhythm & blues with some elements of
country (rockabilly.)  I was a "roots music" fan from early on,
sorta like the narrator in John Sebastian's "Nashville Cats." (The
Lovin' Spoonful.)

I was never initiated into a conspiracy, though.  [-kr]

Evelyn responds:

The two URLs Mark included at the end of his introduction were for
articles by other people discussing the origins of square dancing,
and Henry Ford's involvement in it.  [-ecl]


TOPIC: This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)

a collection of Orwell's essays about bird-watching in Antarctica.
(Sorry, I couldn't resist.)  Most of these essays are from the
1930s and 1940s, and it is often useful to check the publication
date at the end of an essay before reading it, particularly those
having to do with European politics.  In those, by the way, one
sees some of the ideas he later used in 1984, such as the re-
writing of history.  His essays on literature are also often tied
up with politics.  For example, he has some comments on how Charles
Dickens used class distinctions in his novels, and how Wells's view
of the World State seems to be detached from reality.  I did skip a
few of the essays when I was unfamiliar with the subject matter
(e.g., essays about British turn-of-the-century children's books,
or about people who were well-known in England when he wrote the
essay, but are unknown, at least in the United States now), but the
great majority of thes essays are thought-provoking and worth

I have just started the Great Courses course on "Classics of
American Literature", which has 84 lectures.  It seems like it
might be a good idea to read the works along with listening to the
lectures, but I suspect this ambition on my part will not last.
Some will be too long (I would like to finish the course before I
die :-) ), some will not appeal to me (they may be classics, but I
don't *have* to read them--especially if I have read them before),
and some may be hard to find.

At any rate the first one is AUTOBIOGRAPHY by Benjamin Franklin
(ISBN 978-0-486-29073-7).  I am sure I read this ages ago, but it
is short enough that I read it again.  Though Franklin talks a lot
about humility as a virtue, he does not display very much in this
work--and indeed, writes about how hard it is to develop humility
without ending up proud that you are so humble.

If one considers this an example of Franklin's wit, it is not the
only one.  When discussing the organization of people into militias
for defense against the French, he snidely writes, "Indeed I had
some cause to believe that the defense of the country was not
disagreeable to any of them, provided they were not required to
assist in it."

Of his invention of the Franklin stove, he says he took no patent
out on it because, "That, as we enjoy great advantages from the
inventions of others, we should be glad of an opportunity to serve
others by any invention of ours; and this we should do freely and
generously."  What an ideal world Franklin must have lived in! :-)

Ever the scientists, Franklin writes that he had often been
skeptical of claims of a speaker addressing 25,000 people, or an
ancient general addressing entire armies.  So when the Reverend
Whitefield addressed a crowd from the corner of Market Street and
Second Street, Franklin backed down Market Street until he could no
longer understand him (almost to Front Street).  He then calculated
the area of a semi-circle of which his distance from Whitefield was
the radius and concluded that, allowing two square feet per person,
in an open area he could be heard by more than 30,000 people.

Franklin writes of losing his four-year-old son to smallpox, and
says, "I long regretted bitterly, and still regret that I had not
given it to him by inoculation.  This I mention for the sake of
parents who omit that operation, on the supposition that they
should never forgive themselves if a child died under it; my
example showing that the regret may be the same either way, and
that, therefore, the safer should be chosen."  Given how much more
dangerous smallpox inoculation was then compared to, say, measles
vaccination now, maybe Franklin's comments should be more widely

But Franklin does show some linguistic ignorance.  He writes, "We
are told that it is proper to begin first with the Latin, and,
having acquired that, it will be more easy to attain those modern
languages which are derived from it; and yet we do not begin with
the Greek, in order to more easily acquire the Latin."  He
completely misses the fact that Latin is *not* at all derived from
Greek, while French, Spanish, and Italian are pretty much derived
from Latin.  He is correct, though, when he says that those who
begin with Latin and quit after a few years have not learned
anything practical, while starting with a modern language at least
gives them something useful in their common life after the same
period of time.  [-ecl]


                                           Mark Leeper

           The four building blocks of the universe are fire, water,
           gravel and vinyl.
                                           --Dave Barry